It’s all about what is being measured and who is analyzing the data. Measuring engagement is a great way to better understand some general elements of the employee experience--everything from workload to benefits--but it’s simply not designed to capture cultural elements of inclusion, diversity, or equity. There may be some DEI questions included, as most engagement survey vendors understand that this is important to their clients, but the questions are coming from (and being analyzed by) experts in engagement, not experts in DEI. Attempting to measure DEI through an engagement lens has limited utility -- you’ll never see the full picture, and you won’t capture the full breadth of employee experiences. That’s why a specialized DEI survey is important. When you want to measure diversity, equity, and inclusion, you need to use a survey instrument that’s designed for that purpose.
Similarly, you want your DEI data to be analyzed and interpreted by experts in this field. Researchers who are not only trained in rigorous research methodologies but also specialize in DEI work will be able to spot trends, identify patterns, and amplify employee voices in a way that researchers with other specializations will not. At Nova, we know how to work with both quantitative and qualitative data to ensure employee experiences are heard and honored.
DEI research, when done well, doesn’t look the same at every organization. We’re not just selling you our list of survey questions, we’re customizing a research study to achieve your specific objectives. This will look different depending on where you are in your organization’s DEI journey. For some organizations, the goal is to get a baseline understanding of employee experiences and sentiment around DEI. Other organizations have DEI efforts or programming in place and want to measure its effectiveness. Others are looking for change over time. And others are looking for perspectives on a few key areas that are critical for creating a more inclusive culture, such as hiring or performance management. At Nova, we’re doing meaningful research that can inform your strategic direction, not just sending out a little survey.
A survey is best when you want to hear from your entire employee population. Focus groups are best when you want to drill down into specific types of experiences (e.g., better understanding inclusion during employee onboarding) or better understand the experiences of folks with particular identities (e.g., BIPOC employees).
Frequently, survey data informs focus group selection, which is one characteristic of mixed methods research (quant + qual, where one informs the other). We’ll field a survey to uncover themes around DEI and employee perceptions and sentiment, and then we’ll use what we learned to determine what else we want to find out. What questions did the survey results raise, and who do we need to talk with to find out more? For example, if the survey reveals a stark divide between the corporate office and field offices in terms of inclusive behaviors, we may choose to hold a focus group for corporate employees and another for field employees to drill down into their specific experiences. Typically, when a client is planning to do both a survey and focus groups, we’ll set a number of groups during the sales process, but we’ll leave the group make-up TBD so we can strategically select the groups we want to hear from based on the survey results.
Participant protection is a top priority for Nova, and we have more stringent protections in place than most firms because we are very conscious of the exploitative nature of a lot of research done in this space. In many workplaces, employees with marginalized identities are already experiencing harm, and we want to provide a safe space to share their experiences without causing additional harm or trauma.
Surveys: We promise participants complete anonymity and confidentiality, and we keep that promise. We collect no personally identifying information (names, employee ID numbers, etc.), and we don’t even collect IP addresses. Everyone in the organization gets the same anonymous survey link, and because we do ask people to provide information about their identities, we never share the full data set with anyone from the client organization. Instead, we analyze and present results in aggregate, and we don’t report the response breakdowns of groups with fewer than 15 people. For example, if you’re interested in how people from a particular department responded to a question, we will only be able to provide that information if 15 or more people from that group responded to the question. Additionally, we provide clients with verbatim responses to open-ended questions only after we have combed through and removed identifying information.
Focus Groups: We work collaboratively with clients to determine the groups we want to convene and the general direction of the conversations, but we keep participant information confidential. Clients will see an aggregated data analysis, and they will not know who participated in the groups or who said what. Whenever possible, we work with clients to understand the organizational structure and avoid situations where employees may be reluctant to share, such as being in a group with their direct supervisor.
When Nova creates and facilitates a curriculum for your organization, we follow that experience by asking participants to take a short survey about their learning. This serves the dual purpose of helping us continually refine our curricula and giving you some insight into where your employees are in their DEI journeys. We ask a combination of questions about both the learning experience itself and DEI work at your organization to help you get a more complete picture of employees’ experiences. We will deliver a basic report and verbatim responses following the learning program.